Snowing Feathers

It’s snowing feathers, or is it?

It’s January and another winter storm is here. The snow is falling in gentle clusters like downy feathers shaken from a celestial pillow. Yep, there are icy feathers falling to the earth—watch them on this link.







But, I thought snowflakes were six-sided. How do they become feathery clusters? I wanted to know. So, I went outside with a red silicone baking sheet, the kind that is used to roll out pie crusts or line a cookie sheet. I laid it on a level spot and watched. As the snow feather clusters drifted down and landed, they separated. Like friends holding hands they landed, then let go. Some tumbled in a heap together. Others landed individually.

You can watch them on this link. From a distance, it was just snowy feathers.


 Then, I looked closer.















Reindeer and Word Walls


One of the ornaments we made in December was a reindeer. The reindeer clips on a tree branch and holds a Christmas card. Mason (5), Anthony (4), and Nolan (3) helped make these one afternoon. Later, Anna (10) and Garrett (11) made extra reindeer during a break from our Science 3 lessons.

 Well, the holidays are over, but the work never ends for these reindeer. It’s cold and snowy here, so they decided to hang around for another month or so. Below, you’ll see the children making the ornaments, and then the industrious reindeer helping with our Science 2 lessons.


For the reindeer, you need:


wiggly eyes,

a sequin,

a brown pipe cleaner (fuzzy stick),


and scissors.

I put the glue in small jar lid and

used toothpicks to spread it.




Use a toothpick to make a line of glue for the eyes.

The glue line will be above the metal bar and go across the clothespin. Place the two wiggly eyes on the glue line.


Make a dot of glue under the metal bar.

This glue dot is for the nose. Use a sequin for the nose. We had a lot of Rudolphs.


One brown pipe cleaner makes the antlers.First cut in it half, then cut one piece in half again. You’ll have a total of three pieces.

Bend the long piece in the middle. Then twist it tight around the backside of the clothespin, near the top.



Bend each short piece in half and twist each around one long antler.


Garrett and Anna had the idea of using magnets and having the reindeer hold more than holiday cards. They made a herd of reindeer that really stick to their work.


After we made one reindeer together, I had the young boys make another one by themselves. It was a chance to see if they remembered the steps and would use their first reindeer as a sample. Here’s the results.

Mason is serious about details. Mason is a master reindeer maker.
You can see how focused Anthony is on getting it exactly right. Success. Here are the two matching reindeer.
Nolan studies his reindeer for accuracy. Perfect. Here’s the reindeer he did all by himself.
Reindeer holding card on the tree. We did it. Now on to our next task.

I liked Anna and Garrett’s ideas for letting the reindeer do more. 

To help the reindeer stick around, glue a piece of magnetic tape on the back of the clothespin. Ready and willing to work. We use the refrigerator or a magnetic board for our word wall.



Here our word wall reindeer are working hard and hanging around.


Rethink and Repurpose: Checkers

It’s cold. It’s snowy. It’s January. The holidays are over and the house is almost back to normal. So let’s find new learning ideas to keep people busy. How about checkers? How about repurposing and rethinking the game pieces and the checkerboard. Then we’ll change up the rules and let the children play and learn while you get some quiet time.

In December, we made ornaments from small plastic containers. I found these at Hobby Lobby in the aisles with the artist paint tubes and the hobby paint bottles. (You could also repurpose prescription bottles.) We’re going to repurpose these to be our new checkers and chess pieces. I also found packages of twelve tiny containers for $3.00. For checkers it takes sixteen pieces, so I bought two packages. With the holiday clearance sales, I found half-price (and less) packages of tiny figurines, metallic balls, snowflakes, and other wintry objects to give the checkers a theme for this time of year. Of course, since the lids just pop off, you can change the theme of the checkers to match a history lesson, the next holiday, sports, or whatever you want.

I chose two colors of sequins and glued one to each lid, eight purple and eight blue. I placed a silver ball or gold ball in each container.

Since we’re repurposing, I opened up a used folder and removed the pocket flap. The folder is 12 inches wide, perfect for the checker board. We need eight spaces across, so I marked and cut every 1.5 inches. Be sure to cut each line about 13 inches long. You’ll need the extra room for weaving. The green poster paper we used for handprint wreaths still had lots of space. I marked eight spaces, each 1.5 inches wide, and cut along the lines for 13 inches.
I needed a way to line up the first strip, so I drew a pencil line at 12 inches to help keep the strips straight as they are woven. You can see how I lined up the white strips along the pencil line. Have the children weave each strip to create the checkerboard.

The weaving is done. Next, I trimmed off the excess paper from the poster paper and portfolio.

The strips will want to move. I used clear packing tape to hold the strips in place. Tape across the top of each side. You can even cover the entire surface with tape. Then do a final trimming of the finished board.

Everything’s lined up and ready for play. The two teams are blue with silver balls inside and purple with gold balls inside.

When a piece gets “kinged,” turn it over so the object inside is easier to see.

Change up the rules of checkers and make this game a lesson review. Normally, when a blue player is ready to jump and remove a purple piece, there’s nothing more to it. But with the new rules, everyone has another chance to be saved, and reviews their lessons in the process. Try one or more of these new rules:

  1. Before blue can jump and remove purple, the purple player asks a question from today’s lesson (whatever subject you want them to review). If blue answers correctly, the purple piece is removed. If blue answers incorrectly, purple stays in play.
  2. Before blue can jump and remove purple, the blue player asks the purple player a question. If purple answers correctly, the piece stays in play.
  3. When a blue piece gets to the purple end of the board, the blue player must answer three lesson review questions correctly before the piece can be “kinged.”
  4. Each rule works vice versa for both colors and players.

I hope this gives you some ideas and a new way to have the children review lessons. The weaving will definitely take some time. It’s not hard, but will require some patience and about fifteen minutes of work. That’s quiet time for you, time to help someone with another lesson, or time for a nice cup of tea.